In our last blog , we discussed the origin of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. We have suggested that it is undoubtedly one of the most vital nutrients to be included in daily diet. DHA has a positive effect on diseases such as hypertension, arthritis, atherosclerosis, depression, adult-onset diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, thrombosis, and some cancers.
We have briefly discussed the role of Omega 3 fatty acids in specific diseases:
Cardiovascular disease: Consumption of omega 3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil supplements can reduce death occurring from heart problems such as sudden death, cardiac death, and myocardial infarction.
Heart function: EPA & DHA are responsible for maintaining normal heart rate and blood flow
Cognition or Brain growth: DHA makes brain membranes flexible and optimizes electrical signaling resulting in improved cognitive ability.
Lipid parameters: Fish oil supplements can help reduce triglyceride levels
Asthma: Omega 3 fatty acids, especially EPA has been found to be effective in reducing inflammatory responses in human asthmatic cells.
Allergies: In infants, higher consumption of omega-3s may reduce the risk of allergies. Even in adults, there is fair amount of evidence to show that allergic symptoms can be reduces and even prevented by regular use of omega 3 supplements
Arthritis: Fish oil supplements have shown to reduce joint tenderness and stiffness related to rheumatoid arthritis thereby reducing need for the analgesics/ painkillers/ NSAIDs.Supplements have to be used regularly for 3-4 months to obtain results.
Neurological disease: Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce age -related decline in memory and death of brain cells. They are also effective in prevention of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
Specific benefits in pregnancy:
- DHA supports the brain, eyes, and central nervous system which make it uniquely important for pregnant and lactating women.
- Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia and may increase birth weight.
- Omega-3 deficiency also increases the mother’s risk for depression. This may explain why postpartum mood disorders may become worse and begin earlier with subsequent pregnancies.
- Omega-3s are also used after birth to make breast milk
The best sources of EPA and DHA are cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and herring. Many people are justifiably concerned about mercury and other toxins in fish, especially during pregnancy. For this reason, purified fish oil supplements are often the safest source of EPA and DHA. Species such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish have high mercury content and hence need to be avoided completely during pregnancy.
The World Health Organization recommends a daily EPA and DHA intake of 0.3-0.5 grams (300 – 500 mg) and a daily ALA intake of 0.8-1.1 grams.
Two servings of fish per week only provide about 100 to 250 mg per day of omega-3 fatty acids, of which 50 to 100 mg is from DHA. So definitely fish consumption cannot help to meet the total daily requirements.
Soft gel capsules are present in 1000-1200 mg dose. Now, it is important to note that this 1000-1200 mg is not all omega 3. Each 1000mg soft gel may contain only upto 300 mg of of EPA & DHA) and hence to fulfill the daily requirements one has to take 2 of these capsules.
Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.